|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. Welcome to the briefing.
Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Security Council on the Middle East this morning. He said that the conflict in Syria, now entering its twentieth month, has reached new and appalling heights of brutality and violence. Available estimates, which the United Nations is not in a position to verify, put the number of people killed at more than 30,000.
He said that long-standing predictions of the conflict spiralling beyond Syria’s borders are coming true, as illustrated by the recent escalation along the Syrian-Turkish border, rounds of small arms fire in the Golan, exchanges of fire into northern Lebanon and a surge in belligerent rhetoric.
On the Israeli-Palestinian front, he said that both sides maintain their rhetorical commitment to a negotiated peace, but the creeping realities on the ground and the stalemated diplomacy portray a more worrying reality. Mr. Feltman added that stated intentions to adhere to a two-State solution are not translating into meaningful steps to renewed dialogue on the core issues. And we have Mr. Feltman’s remarks in my office.
The United Nations-League of Arab States Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, has appealed to the Iranian authorities to assist in achieving a ceasefire in Syria during the forthcoming Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest holidays celebrated by Muslims around the world.
Mr. Brahimi made the appeal during a visit to Tehran, where he held talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili. The Joint Special Representative underlined that the crisis in Syria was getting worse every day, and stressed the urgent need to stop the bloodshed. He reiterated the call by the Secretary-General for a ceasefire and a halt to the flow of arms to both sides.
And you will have seen that this weekend, Mr. Brahimi was in Turkey where he held talks with President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. He also met the Chairman of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and members of its Executive Committee, as well as other members of the Syrian opposition. And you will have seen that Mr. Brahimi is now in Baghdad and we will provide more information on that when we have it.
The Secretary-General will be travelling to Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday. He will address the World Food Prize Award Ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol. The laureate this year is Dr. Daniel Hillel, for his contribution to microirrigation.
Founded in 1986 by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Norman Borlaug, the World Food Prize honours individuals who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world.
The Secretary-General will also speak at Drake University on the theme “Global Citizenship in a Changing World”. And the Secretary-General will be back in New York on Friday.
Today at 1:15 p.m., there will be a press conference here by the Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Ms. Nicole Ameline, who is addressing the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) of the General Assembly this morning. She will be here to brief on the work of her Committee, in particular, on the economic consequences of marriage and its dissolution, and on the human rights of women in conflict.
And then tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference organized by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), along with the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA) and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), to mark “Africa Week” to be held on the margins of the General Assembly debate on Africa.
And then at 1 p.m., there will be a press conference by the Chair of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Mr. Paulo Pinheiro, along with a member of the Commission, Ms. Karen AbuZayd. And they will discuss their latest findings on the human rights situation in Syria.
Questions, please? Matthew?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Sure, Martin, I had wanted to ask you, there are all these… there are various reports citing to… to… to envoy Brahimi this idea of 3,000 peacekeepers, and I just wanted to… to know, is that… can you say anything about that? I have seen one thing where he said that the… the… the reporting didn’t come from him, but it seems the Syrian National Council is saying he has proposed it; there is some garbled report that the European Union has somehow embraced it. So can you just say what the UN position is on these stories that he is proposing 3,000 peacekeepers?
Spokesperson: I think Mr. Brahimi has addressed this at a press conference in Baghdad fairly recently. I don’t yet have the transcript of those remarks from our own colleagues on the ground, so I would prefer to wait see what the transcript says. But I have seen remarks attributed to him there. But beyond that, if you wish to check further, I would ask you to check in with Ahmad Fawzi, his Spokesperson. Mahmud, Yes? Masood?
Spokesperson: I called you Mahmud there for a moment, that’s tricky, but, Masood, please?
Question: Okay. [laughter] Two things. There are reports this morning that in Syria… in Syrian conflict, the fighters identified from Saudi Arabia, Qatari and Bahra… I mean, not Qatari, all the Emirate sides have entered into this conflict. Does the Secretary-General have anything to say? And they are armed, very well armed, they are very well-equipped and they have entered, and that is why the conflict is now becoming bloodier and bloodier day by day besides anything else. Does the Secretary-General have any response to this?
Spokesperson: Not specifically to this latest reporting, but simply to reiterate what the Secretary-General has repeatedly said that any further militarization of this conflict is obviously unhelpful. And that includes arming of either side, as well as any presence of people who may be fighting.
Question: Another question about this… this Gaza. Israel has… Government has strafed Gaza, has… Israeli jets have entered the Gaza territory again and again. I mean, of course there is no response, but they don’t have any air… so does… and have managed to somehow kill some people. So, tell me, is there a reaction over there? I know that his [inaudible] was there, but that is… that is the latest happening that there have been going in and out of that territory. [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: Well, as I think you have just mentioned, Mr. Feltman has indeed been briefing the Security Council this morning, and will have covered that topic during his briefing.
Question: But this… this… this thing about Israeli jets entering the territory of Gaza again and again, and have killed… have killed three or four people in the process. [inaudible] reaction?
Spokesperson: As I say, I believe that that’s been covered by the briefing by Mr. Feltman.
Spokesperson: Yes, please?
Question: Thank you, Martin. According to the number of people killed in Syria, you said that 30,000 is a number which cannot be confirmed. How can it happen that the Deputy Secretary-General speaks about it, gives the number, which is not confirmed?
Spokesperson: In which context?
Question: Mr. Feltman said today that the number of killed people in Syria is 30,000, and you said that the number is not confirmed. How can a top official give the number which is not confirmed?
Spokesperson: No, what he is saying is that there are estimates of that magnitude. I think it is simply to be able to provide an indication of the scale of the slaughter and of the bloodshed. I don’t think it is possible for any individual or group to have an accurate fix on the casualty figures, but it is obvious that there are broad estimates available. The United Nations itself is not in a position to be able to count clearly and accurately, but there are estimates out there from different quarters, and simply that Mr. Feltman is saying these are the kind of numbers that there are. I think that that is entirely understandable to be able to give a picture to the Security Council of the kind of figures that are out there. Other questions, please? Yes?
Question: On… I have questions on Sudan and… and peacekeeping. But just one more on… on either Mr… what Mr. Felt… USG Feltman said or the UN position. He seemed to say that… that… he… he said that, you know, there is… Palestine will be seeking this new enhanced observer State status. And he said that he hoped that it could be dealt with constructively. And I wanted to know, it seems like… like it is fair to say that half… more… at least more than half of UN Members seem to support that or has expressed support for observer State status. Is there a UN position that… that… that it would be problematic to vote that through in the General Assembly? Is that what he meant or what is the U… what is the Secretariat’s position on that now, you know, confirmed… Mr. Abbas has said that they will be seeking it; many States have expressed a view on it. He didn’t just say it is up to States, he said he hopes it can be dealt with constructively. Can you unpack it a little bit? What does that mean?
Spokesperson: It means what it says; it’s for Member States to deliberate on this. The question of status or membership of the General Assembly, that’s really for Member States, as you pointed out yourself. And he is simply saying that in the process of deliberating that he hopes it is done in a constructive manner. And I think that that’s all there is to it. Next question? Sudan?
Question: Okay, sure, yeah, I wanted to ask you on Sudan. There are… there is reports now of… of pretty serious, not just bomb… shelling, but… but ground fighting near Kadugli and there are various deaths… you know, casualty figures on both sides. But I am wondering if, since it is, you know, in the po… it seems to the portion of Southern Kordofan to which the UN… in which the UN has some presence, are they able to… to confirm any of this fighting?
Spokesperson: I don’t have anything fresh for you today, Matthew, on this.
Spokesperson: Okay, thank you for pointing, thank you. Yes, Joe?
Question: Yeah, and this may be something that you might have to ask the Legal department for an opinion, or at least what they think. And it goes back to the Palestinian State [inaudible] observer status. My understanding is that the Security Council never formally dispensed of or disposed of that [inaudible] last year; it was never voted upon formally. So it remained seized of that issue. And there is a provision in the Charter, and I apologize, I don’t have the specific article and section in my mind, but I know there is a section in the Charter that… that indicates that when the Security Council remains seized of a specific matter, the General Assembly is not authorized simultaneously to deal with it. So what I was wondering, is whether the UN Secretariat in terms of advising on the legality of the bid for observer State status while the Security Council has not yet rejected the bid for full membership, whether there is going to be any consideration of whether that should go further under the UN Charter.
Spokesperson: Well, with your usual prescience, you ready my mind, I will need to check with OLA — Legal Affairs — and my colleagues who advise on Security Council affairs. Absolutely, yes.
Question: Okay. And then you will put a statement in later in the transcript if there is…?
Spokesperson: Well, that’s for us to decide how we communicate anything that we do find. But certainly, if we have any information, I’d be happy to share it with you, yeah.
Correspondent: Okay, I appreciate that, thank you.
Spokesperson: Okay. All right, anything else? Last one.
Question: Okay, yeah, I wanted to ask you, while the… they’re peacekeeping; two of them are pending already. So I guess I just want to ask them again, but…
Spokesperson: No, you don’t need to.
Question: I’d like to, the Finns in Lebanon, I’d like to know what happened to that, but…
Spokesperson: The Finns, we will send you something afterwards.
Spokesperson: But in a nutshell, our colleagues in UNIFIL have been able to confirm that there was an incident and we will send you some more details shortly.
[The Spokesperson later informed the correspondent that, on 11 October, two United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) vehicles performing a medical evacuation made a wrong turn and were stopped and blocked in the vicinity of the village of Ayta ash-Shab by a group of civilians. Several items and equipment belonging to UNIFIL were forcibly taken away. The Lebanese Armed Forces were dispatched to the area and, after they took control of the situation, the UNIFIL convoy was able to leave the village, although the equipment was not returned to the peacekeepers. The Lebanese Armed Forces informed UNIFIL that an investigation is under way to identify the perpetrators and to recover the stolen equipment.]
Question: Okay. This is a… it’s a more [inaudible] more serious, because it involves a death. There are reports of a Ukrainian peacekeeper in… in UNMIL in Liberia having… having died and some investigation… I just wanted to know, did it happen, what can be said in advance and is there… is it the type of investigation that will… that results of which will… will be announced as… so far, at least, it doesn’t seem to have taken place in the case of Haiti and the Rwandan police officer. I just wanted to know, sort of, like, it seems pretty, you know, when a peacekeeper dies, sometimes it said here… sometimes it isn’t… but what happened in Liberia?
Spokesperson: I’ll check, Matthew.
Spokesperson: Thank you very much.
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